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Procedure Time: 1-2 hours
Recovery Time: Minimal downtime, 24-48 hours
Results Duration: Dependent on lifestyle, 12+ months
Cost: Varies by device and area size, approx. £600-£800 per small area, up to £1,400 for larger areas
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Cryolipolysis is a non-invasive fat removal procedure, often marketed as fat freezing. It is the cooling of subcutaneous fat cells, which induces lipolysis, the breaking down of the fat cells, without damaging any of the surrounding tissues or the skin. Cryolipolysis works to reduce fat in specific areas of the body and is most commonly used on the stomach and back. It was originally pioneered through a treatment known as CoolSculpting, which is a trademark of Zeltiq Aesthetics Ltd. Other similar treatments are available using devices such as CoolTech, LipoGlaze, 3D-lipo, LipoContrast and ProShock ICE. Cryolipolysis is not a permanent solution to fat loss; whilst it can reduce fat cells that are already present, it cannot prevent remaining fat cells from increasing in size so individuals will have to maintain their fat loss either through a combination of diet and exercise or further cryolipolysis procedures. There is hardly any recovery time or any side effects associated with cryolipolysis. Following the procedure, the fat breaks down over a period of two to four months, resulting in fat loss that appears entirely natural. Cryolipolysis costs will depend on the device used and the number of areas treated.
Cryolipolysis is a relatively new procedure that helps to induce a natural-looking reduction in fat. It’s regarded as a non-invasive alternative to invasive fat removal procedures such as liposuction, as it requires hardly any recovery time.
The number of liposuction procedures taking place across the world has increased dramatically year on year – it’s still one of the most popular cosmetic surgeries in the world, with over 289,000 procedures taking place in 2018 in the U.S. alone, according to statistics from the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS). ASAPS also notes that non-surgical fat reduction procedures, including those which use CoolSculpting, VaserShape and Liposonix accounted for 174,244 procedures performed in the U.S. in 2018, a drop of 3.6% on 2017.
Fat removal procedures are becoming more popular as an increasing number of people struggle with their weight, so it’s no surprise that procedures such as cryolipolysis are being chosen by more and more patients.
The science behind cryolipolysis was first published in Lasers in Surgery and Medicine in 2008, where Dieter Manstein MD, PhD and R. Rox Anderson and their team demonstrated that under controlled conditions, subcutaneous fat cells (fat cells situated between the skin and muscle layers) are more vulnerable to the effects of cold than other surrounding tissues, and that prolonged cooling of these fat cells can cause those cells to reduce in number, without damaging any of the surrounding tissues; a process referred to as 'selective cryolysis'.
Cryolipolysis is not a permanent solution to fat loss; whilst it can reduce fat cells that are already present, it cannot prevent remaining fat cells from increasing in size so individuals will have to maintain their fat loss either through a combination of diet and exercise or further cryolipolysis procedures.
Cryolipolysis can also be combined with laser or radiofrequency technologies to tighten the skin and further enhance results.
If you are considering cryolipolysis, the following information should give you a basic understanding of the procedure. It can’t answer all of your questions, as the outcome of the procedure depends on the individual patient and practitioner. Please ask an experienced practitioner about anything you don’t understand.
Cryolipolysis is a non-invasive fat removal procedure. It is the cooling of subcutaneous fat cells, which induces lipolysis, which is the breaking down of the fat cells, without damaging any of the surrounding tissues or the skin. Following the procedure, the fat breaks down over a period of two to four months, resulting in fat loss that appears entirely natural.
Cryolipolysis works on the basis that fat cells are more vulnerable to energy extraction – in this case, cooling, than the surrounding tissues. That means that cryolipolysis will break down the fat cells, but not the surrounding tissues.
Once cooled, the fat cells then undergo apoptosis, which is controlled cell death. When apoptosis happens, the fat cell wall breaks down causing lipids (fats) from the cells to be released.
These lipids are transported by your lymphatic drainage system to be processed and eliminated through the body in the same way that fat from your food is eliminated. This process is very gradual, meaning that there is no danger of your lymphatic system being overloaded.
You may start to see changes as quickly as three weeks following your treatment, but will experience the most signs of change between one and three months after treatment. Your body is still flushing fat cells out via your metabolism and will continue doing so for up to four to six months following treatment.
Additional treatments may be performed two to four months after the initial procedure to achieve greater fat reduction.
For example, clinical studies using the CoolSculpting device show that it provides "noticeable, measurable fat reduction in properly selected patients over the course of two to four months after the procedure", and that "patients experiencing fat layer reduction show persistent results at least six months after the CoolSculpting treatment".
Long-term clinical studies have not yet been completed to show exactly how long results can last, although as long as you maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle, long-term results are expected to remain stable.
Cryolipolysis works to reduce fat in specific areas of the body. It’s most commonly used on the stomach and back.
It cannot be used on the breasts and it cannot be used to reduce cellulite, (studies are ongoing on the application of this technology for this indication).
If you have a specific area in mind for your cryolipolysis procedure, speak to your practitioner first to see if that area can be treated with cryolipolysis.
Ideal candidates are relatively fit and healthy individuals, but have some modest sized, stubborn fat bulges that are not easily reduced through diet and exercise, common areas known as love handles, bra bulges or muffins tops.
Cryolipolysis is not intended for weight loss or as an obesity cure, and it is not a substitute for more invasive and larger fat removal methods such as liposuction.
Firstly, you and your practitioner will decide which area to treat. Careful discussions regarding your reasons for wanting treatment are very important before you begin the treatment. You must also make sure that this treatment can deliver what you want and how you would like to look afterwards. Your practitioner should be able to answer all these questions.
A medical history should also be taken to make sure that there are no reasons why you shouldn’t undertake treatment. You may be asked to sign a consent form which means that you have understood the potential benefits and risks associated with the procedure.
Photographs may also be taken by the practitioner for a "before and after" comparison at a later date.
During the procedure, two non-invasive cooling panels are applied to the skin and the area of fat that you wish to treat is drawn upwards between the two panels. This will just feel like a firm pull, with a little bit of pressure, but it will not be painful.
The fat cells will then be cooled for around one to two hours, depending on your personal needs. At first, the area that is being treated will feel very, very cold but after a little while you won’t notice the temperature anymore. Many patients will chat on their phone or read a book during treatment.
There is hardly any recovery time associated with cryolipolysis.
It is entirely non-invasive, and so in most cases, patients can return to their normal regime on the same day as the procedure, although you might want to wait a day or two before returning to your normal regime if you experience any redness or soreness on the treated area.
There aren’t many side effects associated with cryolipolysis.
Because it is non-invasive, there are no open wounds and therefore there is no risk of infection.
However, some patients may experience redness, numbness, soreness, bruising, tingling, swelling or some discomfort in the treated area – this is simply due to how the tissue is drawn up between the two cooling plates during the procedure.
Any side effects such as those mentioned are temporary and will disappear within a few hours or days.
Cases have been reported on a side effect called paradoxical (adipose) hyperplasia following cryolipolysis treatment, particularly in men, although it is still considered rare. This is where a fatty mass appears in the treated area some time after treatment. Such a side effect can be treated and resolved with liposuction techniques.
It is very important that you follow the advice of your practitioner following treatment.
Post-treatment advice may include:
Most patients will be able to go straight back into their normal regime following a cryolipolysis procedure, but if you experience any pain or soreness in the treated area you might want to take extra care washing and caring for that area in the days following the procedure.
To undergo cryolipolysis treatment, you should be in general good health and you should have realistic expectations of the outcome.
Most people are suitable candidates for cryolipolysis, and it is recommended as a safe treatment for individuals who are unable to undergo more invasive procedures such as liposuction, due to the risks associated with anaesthetic.
Cryolipolysis is not recommended for morbidly obese individuals as the procedure will not give any noticeable results.
Only fully trained and qualified medical physicians, cosmetic surgeons or their support staff should perform a cryolipolysis procedure.
For more information about practitioner training, qualifications and relevant medical organisations please view the information contained within the Legislation section of the Consulting Room.
Cryolipolysis can cost between £600-£800 per small area treated or up to £1,400 for a larger area.
The more areas you have treated and the more sessions of cryolipolysis you have, the higher the cost, although discount packages may be available. The cost will also depend on your practitioner and the clinic.
Cryolipolysis is a safe, non-invasive procedure designed to kill fat cells. Because the fat cells gradually die and release their contents, the end result is very natural-looking, but this can make a big difference to your appearance, particularly if you are already eating well and exercising regularly.
Following a cryolipolysis procedure, you can expect a slimmer silhouette and smaller, less noticeable fat bulges.
There are very few side effects associated with cryolipolysis if the cryolipolysis procedure is administered by a fully trained practitioner.